MSF treats injured at Amman facility On the road leading to the border crossing in Ramtha, in northwestern Jordan, a string of cars is parked along the shoulder, waiting for the refugees to pass. Syrians are arriving in Jordan every day. Whether they follow the standard route or a more roundabout one, they end up in one of the refugee camps set up in Ramtha.
Khalil* crossed the border at night with his family after a long trip from Homs, in western Syria. Khalil, his pregnant wife and their four children took a bus to Damascus and then a taxi, paid for by others. The last part of the trip – crossing the border – was made on foot. Now they are waiting in Beshabshe camp in Ramtha. As soon as someone agrees to sponsor them, they will probably head to Amman and settle there. The Jordanian capital is only 70 kilometres away. Khalil also hopes to get medical treatment. A month ago, while heading home on his bicycle in Homs, he was stopped by security forces and shot on his left side. He has had pain in his hip ever since. He went to a medical centre, but received only basic care. "Because the bullet came out, they cleaned the wound," he tells Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) physician Mohamed Haddad. "If the bullet had stayed inside my body, they would have left it there. They didn't have the means to do anything else. But they cleaned the wound. I was there for a half-hour – it was too dangerous to stay longer. I haven't received any further treatment."
Haddad has come from Amman to determine whether any of these new arrivals are wounded and in need of orthopedic surgery. MSF has a specialized surgical team that performs operations in a hospital in the Jordanian capital. The refugee camps in Ramtha are more like transit camps and the Syrians generally do not stay long. Haddad visits the camps every two or three days. He gives the wounded patients he sees that day, including Khalil, his telephone number so that they can contact him when they reach Amman and arrange to be seen. "The wounded people we see here have already received urgent care in Syria," he says. "They usually have old wounds that date back several weeks or months. On the other hand, people who are in very serious condition remain inside Syria and can't make it here."
Other cases continue to arrive. Haitham, 25, lifts his polo shirt to show the purple-red marks on his back. His arms also bear lacerations from rubber cables. He was arrested while participating in a demonstration in Deraa. He says he was tortured in prison, where he was held for 17 days before being transferred to Damascus by convoy. He was freed en route during an attack by the Free Syrian Army and immediately set out for Jordan. The wounded all have stories to tell. Most of the Syrians who have received gunshot wounds need treatment. In another Ramtha camp set up in a stadium, the refugees are all young men. Some are wounded and one walks with crutches. The bullet left him with an open fracture on his left leg. Another person lost his right eye and suffered a multiple fracture of the maxilla after being shot in the face. He can no longer open his mouth properly. Haddad delivers the same message to all these young wounded men: they can come to Amman and see an MSF surgeon, who will determine whether to operate. Initially, the MSF team in Amman performed only reconstructive surgery, treating victims of violence from Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other countries. However, a growing number of Syrians with bullet wounds have been arriving since the violence broke out in their country. As a result, MSF has strengthened its orthopedic surgery team, which operates on upper and lower limbs. The surgeon examines five to 10 patients weekly. On average, one-third of them need orthopedic surgery. Another third receive physical therapy and the rest are monitored. X-rays are performed regularly to observe their fractures.
*All names have been changed to protect individuals.